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Running a 5K is a challenging and fun way to stay fit. Although, if you aren’t careful, you can get injured while training or during the event. As 5Ks become more and more popular, we’ve seen an uptick in patients who visit us at MedStar Health with conditions that develop during training or racing. Injuries can range from shin splints and knee pain to torn ligaments and broken bones.
Many of the injuries are the result of people beginning strenuous exercise too quickly, such as going from total inactivity to running a few miles at a time. Others do not take preventative steps to allow their muscles and ligaments to heal after a hard workout. By understanding what the most common injuries are, people can take preventative steps and seek treatment when it’s appropriate.
Preventing Common Running Injuries
A stress fracture, or a tiny crack in the bone, occurs when your muscles fatigue while running and can’t absorb the force they need to, causing the force to transmit to the bone. Symptoms can include:
- Sharp pain
To prevent stress fractures, give your body a break from physical activity when you’re sore and consume adequate nutrition through protein and an appropriate amount of calories—2,000 for the average woman and 2,500 for the average man—to help your body heal.
Shin splints are pain and inflammation along the shin and calf due to muscles, tendons, and bone tissue being overworked. You also might feel lumps or bumps along the shin and pain when moving your toes up and down.
To help avoid shin splints, make sure your calves and ankles are strong and flexible through stretching and strength training. Icing the affected area several times per day and resting when you’re sore also can help you avoid them.
Patellofemoral Knee Pain (Runner’s knee)
Patellofemoral knee pain, or runner’s knee, is due to abnormal biomechanics of the knee cap , causing your knee and femur to not function properly and may progress to breakdown of cartilage under the kneecap. Common symptoms include:
- Pain in the knee
- Grinding, clicking, or popping in the knee
- Knee giving out
- Difficulty going up and down stairs
Prevent runner’s knee by strengthening your hip muscles and quadriceps through strength training and stretching your hamstrings regularly. Icing the knee after you run can also help.
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation in the plantar fascia—a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to your toes. It causes a sharp pain around the heel of the foot. This condition is tough to heal because it’s hard to rest the feet as much as necessary during our daily activities.
To prevent plantar fasciitis, it’s important to give yourself the proper rest and check your shoes for the proper amount of stiffness using the “finger test.” Take two fingers, one on the heel of your shoe and the other on the toe, and if you can fold the shoe in half, it probably isn’t supportive enough for you in the context of heel pain. Also, consider stretching your calves and doing ice massages by rolling a frozen plastic water bottle up and down your foot.
Effective Rehabilitation Techniques
If you do sustain an injury, an effective way to continue running and staying in shape while your injury heals is to train on an AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill ®, which helps strengthen and improve the coordination of your muscles and promotes full range of motion while minimizing stress on affected joints.
Aqua jogging is another effective way to continue exercise while you recover from an injury. This technique involves running in the deep end of a pool, closely mimicking actual running movements. Your feet don’t actually touch the bottom of the pool, so it has zero impact on your joints and is safe for almost any type of injury.
Running or training for a 5K is a great way to stay in shape and live a healthy lifestyle. Consider these tips when planning your next workout and listen to your body to reduce your risk of future injury.
Discover how our sports medicine experts can help you train for your next 5K by visiting one of our Running Injury Clinics.
Want to learn more about running properly and reducing common injuries? Watch our “Ready to Race” series to learn more.